Lee Konitz

Play French Impressionist Music from the Turn of the Twentieth Century

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Play French Impressionist Music from the Turn of the Twentieth Century Review

by Richard S. Ginell

Konitz has recorded with strings before but never like this: all alone in front of a string quartet sans rhythm section in a collection of arrangements of pieces by the French classical composers Koechlin, Chausson, Ravel, Faure, Debussy, and Satie. Unquestionably the sound and techniques of this fusion lean heavily toward the classical end, yet that mere bit of categorizing just scratches the surface of these elegant, serious, often provocative recordings. Arranger/musical director Ohad Taylor isn't afraid to inject bits of avant-garde glides and dissonances into his charts, and he loves to throw in quotes from other related or unrelated works. Ravel's "Berceuse Sur le Nom de Gabriel Faure," for example, opens in a near free-form mini-frenzy, and the strings continue to flutter about seemingly quite freely, throwing in some of Mahler's "Symphony No. 1" in the bargain. Although the Axis String Quartet generally sticks to classical style with a minimum of improvisations, the 72-year-old Konitz flits easily between the idioms without always making it apparent which one he is in at any given time (though Konitz's work in Faure's "L'Absent" has more of a jazzy feeling than the other tracks). Konitz's legion of fans are in for a pleasant, challenging surprise with this one.

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